Sad-Face Clowns

The “C-Suite” in corporate America is filled with sad face clowns. I don’t mean this disparagingly, heck, I used to be one of them. How could I forget the very moment that I discovered this stunning realization!

It was in the mid-2000s, and there I was, the CEO of a $257 million revenue per year commercial printing company having a “conversation” with the owner when he delivered the message…

I don’t want your job, nobody does—it’s the worst job in the world.”

It didn’t sink in at first, instead, my mind raced into the obvious pitfalls of the job…

…the endless hours…

…the crazy anxious non-stop pressure cooker…

…the thankless and fleeting respect and admiration…

…but the money made it all worth it…right?

Wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, the money was great, but it really only served as the lubricant and facilitator to keep the “wheel spinning” if you know what I mean.

But “…the worst job in the world?” That was a bit of a “mind frost” to say the least.

Over time, ever so slowly, and ever so profoundly, it started to sink in…

…the role of CEO is nothing more than playing the role of a sad-faced clown.

Sure, it’s lonely at the top, but that’s not it.

It’s more about the delusion about thinking you can survive the “short-term / long-term” narrative, and actually get things done.

Public companies all suffer from the same fate.

And why, if Elon Musk, eventually does acquire Twitter he will immediately take it private.

You see—for the folks on Wall Street and in the investment community at large, it’s all about short-term results—90-day narratives, and the “growth story.”

And so, it becomes the same for the “C-suite’ers,”—forced to strategize, plan, executive, and deliver on a perpetual quarterly basis.

It’s one hell of a circus act—full of dogs spinning in circles chasing their tails.

But it’s anything but funny.

In business, as in life, it’s all a game of trade-offs and opportunity costs—you choose to do this, you can’t do that.

Thus, short-termism rules the day, the week, the month, the quarter, and the year.

It’s all about the harvest and not about the farm

Unfortunately, short-termism has taken root in all facets of our society.

As the pace of “instant innovation” accelerates, more foundational farming steps are skipped, and our empire slowly erodes at the fringes before anyone really notices.

Back to my personal story.

My orders and mission as CEO were to be the catalyst for change and come up with a plan to transform the “current state” into our “desired state.”

It was about building a better future for all, and I was all in!

But, soon enough, I realized that I was really playing the role of a sad-faced circus clown—here to entertain the bankers, create a sellable quarterly narrative, find enough data points to prove it, and keep the circus act in high gear.

It was never about change, or absurdly, the “long-term strategy,” lots of laughs!

The harsh reality—I was a highly paid jester doing the dirty work for behind-the-scenes business bureaucrats…

…only to be the perfect scapegoat when the story gets old and needs to change.

They will always be work for the sad-faced clown in corporate America.

But beware—it’s not the work that fills your soul.

You’ll be playing the Wile E. Coyote character in a corporate cartoon—scheming, plotting, and running 90-day stunts in perpetuity.

Alas, there is hope out there—just look at me, I was able to escape the asylum 14 years ago and find a new purpose as an entrepreneur…

…and this time, the only agenda is to is not have an agenda

…and to never again succumb to play the role of a sad-faced clown.

Does this little tale represent 100% of C-Suite’ers and corporate America today—of course not, but it’s my story and I’m sticking to it …

…and I recommend you do the same, it’s your life, create your own narrative, and don’t be the sad-faced clown living someone else’s.

Let unruliness rule your day—sure to keep the sad clowns away ~

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